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View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next A special Game-Specific Weapon I could use feedback on...



Soylentmatt
2018-08-14, 12:53 PM
Iím creating this weapon SPECIFICALLY for one player in my campaign. Heís playing a dragonborn fighter, and dragonborn in my campaign are heavily tied to this ancient, long-lost order of knightsÖ so this weapon is meant to be a link to that.

First of all, itís intelligent. I do a pretty decent sean connery impression, so Iím going to deliberately give the sword the voice of an ancient dragonborn knight, someone that follows the old code (yes, I am 100% ripping off Dragonheart. Donít @ me, that movie rules). The intention here is to create story space for this backstory Iíve created but give the player the freedom to interpret it however he wants.

Second, the sword is going to start out as a simple +1 weapon. Heís getting it (I believe) at around level 3, but Iím constructing this mechanic so that the sword will improve as he levels up, so it can be something he carries for the entire game. Itís pretty much always going to be a little overpowered, but Iím willing to just build harder baddies for him to destroy.

The mechanic for powering up the weapon is going to be based on finding gemstones that correspond with the different draconic bloodlines. The sword will have a inset circle in the bladeÖ in it you can mount up to five dragon gems. Each time you put another gem into the thing, itís overall effectiveness increases. This is a breakdown of how thatís going to work:

No Gems: intelligent +1 weapon, (~level 3)
1 Gem: intelligent +1 weapon +1d6 damage (type determined by active gem) (~level 6)
2 Gems: intelligent +2 weapon +1d6 damage (type determined by active gem) (~level 9)
3 Gems: intelligent +2 weapon +2d6 damage (type determined by active gem) (~level 12)
4 Gems: intelligent +3 weapon, +2d6 damage (type determined by active gem) (~level 15)
5 Gems: intelligent +3 weapon, +3d6 damage (type determined by active gem) (~level 18)

The idea is that it takes an action to twist the circle inside the blade and bring a different dragonstone into the center, making it the active damage type.Honestly, I might just stop right there. This is already a pretty effective weapon that I think any self-respecting fighter would have a good time with. I was just toying with the idea of each gem granting a specific additional ability, which would start to layer all sorts of interesting tactical decision-making into just which gems you use in the sword (in addition to the obvious good vs evil roleplay of the metallic vs chromatic gems). Itís cool, and I tried to keep the abilities reasonable, but taken all together, with an action to switch between five of them, it might just be too much. These are the abilities I came up with:

Chromatic Dragon Gems:

Black (additional damage: Acid) - As an action, all creatures w/i 5í must make a DEX saving throw* or take 2d6 acid damage.
Blue (additional damage: Lightning) - replace one weapon attack to instead arc a lightning bolt from the sword to a single target within 15í. Dexterity saving throw or take 2d6 lightning damage
Green (additional damage: Poison) - Once per turn, a creature hit with an attack must make a CON saving throw* or become poisoned for 1 minute.
Red (additional damage: Fire) - Whenever a creature within 5 feet of you hits you with a melee attack, the attacker takes 1d4 fire damage.
White (additional damage: Cold) - Targets hit by your melee attack have their speed reduced by 5, stacking cumulatively. At the start of each turn, An affected creature may make a constitution saving throw* to remove the effect.

Metallic Dragon Gems:

Bronze (additional damage: Lightning) - Once per turn, when you hit a creature with an attack you can 'lightning spike' the target. At the start of each of the spiked creatureís turns, it takes 1d4 lightning damage for each time youíve spiked it, and it can then make a Constitution saving throw* to end all spikes on a success.
Copper (additional damage: Acid) - Once per turn, the blade appears to skip out of existence, granting advantage on one attack (must designate an attack before the roll)
Brass (additional damage: Fire) - make one additional attack using your bonus action
Silver (additional damage: Cold) - when hit with a melee attack, use your reaction to swing sword and create a temporary ice shield, reducing the damage by 1d10 +STR
Gold (additional damage: Fire) - on a critical hit deal an additional 2d6 radiant damage. Gain temporary hit points equal to the extra damage dealt.
*Save DCs: 8 + proficiency bonus + your STR modifier

Iím very aware that the additional abilities make the weapon pretty godly, but maybe thatís what I want? I donít make my games to be challenging, I make them so everyone has a good time, and I know he will really enjoy weilding a really cool weapon like this. I am really interested in peopleís opinions here; if they have any suggestions for ways to mellow out the extra abilities, or if they think theyíre cool as they areÖ or if I should just chuck the additional abilities altogether?

Soylentmatt
2018-08-14, 03:30 PM
One note I got was that just making a weapon godly powerful isn't actually as cool as having it grant out-of-combat utility. With that in mind, I think this severly nerfed version will go over MUCH better.

the gems do NOT confer special abilities, they simply grant the weapon +1d6 of their relevant damage type. it's still an action to switch between them, so there is still an element of strategy in-combat, but the extra damage bonus never goes higher than +1d6.

the weapon still gains in power as you add more gems, but rather than gaining more combat utility, we're adding a pair of non-combat abilities. first, it's the cantrip message. it's an intelligent weapon after all, it makes sense that it could pass messages around. the second is a very limited scrying ability.... once per short rest, you can look through the sword. it will allow you to see through an invisible sensor that can move up to 30' in a round, for a maximum of one minute. it can't move through solid barriers, and you're limited to your normal vision abilies. so the new breakdown of the swords growth is this:

No gems: +1 sword
One gem: +1 sword with +1d6 of gem's damage type
Two gems: +1 sword with +1d6 of gem's damage type & message cantrip
Three gems: +2 sword with +1d6 of gem's damage type & message cantrip
Four gems: +2 sword with +1d6 of gem's damage type & message cantrip & scrying ability
Five gems: +3 sword with +1d6 of gem's damage type & message cantrip & scrying ability

I already like this much better.

FlameUser64
2018-08-15, 12:07 AM
A thought I personally had might be that the gems could grant other abilities, but those other abilities could be focused on things other than various flavours of extra damage output in combat. I'm not familiar with 5e's dragons (or 5e's overall gameplay and magic item design), being more of a Pathfinder player, but to use a few Pathfinder-themed examples:
ó The gold dragon gem might grant a small bonus on saving throws to the wielder, which could, say, extend to all allies within 30 ft. of the wielder for 1 round when the wielder successfully strikes a target with the weapon. This is based on the Luck power that adult gold dragons possess.
ó The bronze dragon gem might allow the wielder to manipulate water, increasing their speed and the speed of nearby allies when swimming, or increasing the speed of any ocean-going vessel on which they are a passenger. This mirrors the Wave Mastery power that juvenile bronze dragons possess.
ó The silver dragon gem might grant the wielder the ability to walk on fog and clouds, as well as manipulate them as if they were solid objects. It might also grant the wielder the ability to see through fog and clouds without penalty. Heck, it might even allow the wielder to produce small clouds or areas of fog, which the wielder can then use in conjunction with its cloud manipulation and cloud-walking abilities to fashion a bridge made of cloud to cross gaps, etc. This is based on the Cloudwalking and Fog Vision powers that silver dragons possess.
ó The copper dragon gem might grant the ability to walk on stone walls and ceilings as though under the effect of a constant Spider Climb. This mirrors the Climb Stone power that copper dragons possess.

Yddisac
2018-08-15, 10:51 AM
A thought I personally had might be that the gems could grant other abilities, but those other abilities could be focused on things other than various flavours of extra damage output in combat. I'm not familiar with 5e's dragons (or 5e's overall gameplay and magic item design), being more of a Pathfinder player, but to use a few Pathfinder-themed examples:
ó The gold dragon gem might grant a small bonus on saving throws to the wielder, which could, say, extend to all allies within 30 ft. of the wielder for 1 round when the wielder successfully strikes a target with the weapon. This is based on the Luck power that adult gold dragons possess.
ó The bronze dragon gem might allow the wielder to manipulate water, increasing their speed and the speed of nearby allies when swimming, or increasing the speed of any ocean-going vessel on which they are a passenger. This mirrors the Wave Mastery power that juvenile bronze dragons possess.
ó The silver dragon gem might grant the wielder the ability to walk on fog and clouds, as well as manipulate them as if they were solid objects. It might also grant the wielder the ability to see through fog and clouds without penalty. Heck, it might even allow the wielder to produce small clouds or areas of fog, which the wielder can then use in conjunction with its cloud manipulation and cloud-walking abilities to fashion a bridge made of cloud to cross gaps, etc. This is based on the Cloudwalking and Fog Vision powers that silver dragons possess.
ó The copper dragon gem might grant the ability to walk on stone walls and ceilings as though under the effect of a constant Spider Climb. This mirrors the Climb Stone power that copper dragons possess.

Grabbed my monster manual to check ó none of those abilities you mentioned exist in D&D. Some of them have analogues ó copper dragons do have a climb speed ó but others, like Luck, just straight-up don't exist. The reason I bring this up is because, as a D&D player, I'd never even heard of gold dragons having a Luck ability; I could see it being confusing to other non-Pathfinder players if that ability suddenly appeared. (If OP uses Pathfinder flavour at their table, of course, that's a non-issue. :P)

I like the general idea of providing out of combat bonuses for two reasons: one, because it's more interesting than in-combat abilities; and two, because the in-combat bonuses are either lackluster (post 1's Black and Gold), or they're ridiculously good (post 1's Green, Brass, and Copper). Getting a bonus action extra attack would be great on a normal weapon; with a +3 weapon that deals 3d6 extra damage on a hit, that damage output is going to be very, very high. If the gems are going to provide any interesting advantages, they'd best do so out of combat, I think. That's why I like the sword in post #2 a lot more than the one in post #1. The sword in post #1 is a strong sword that does stuff; the sword in post #2 is "the diviner's sword" that also happens to be great in combat. It's more fun, more narratively interesting, and far more memorable.

That said, I also see a problem with providing out of combat abilities to the gems in this specific case. If one of the gems provides a swim speed, and another provides a climb speed, and another provides a cloud-walking ability, well, when is a PC any two of those abilities at the same time? Not often enough to matter. It only takes them six-ish seconds to activate the appropriate ability, which is a trivial amount of time in any situation not tracked by initiative. The out-of-combat abilities, in this case, would have to be balanced as if the PC had all of them at once, since switching among abilities outside of combat is trivial.

For that reason, I recommend one of the following options:

Axe the gem abilities all together and stick with the sword in post #2. The base weapon is both strong and interesting thanks to its divination abilities, so don't worry about shortchanging your player.
Make the gem abilities either minor, or something where choosing among them would matter even out of combat (preferably both). One easy thing there could be granting resistance to the damage type corresponding to the active dragon's breath weapon. Even out of combat, that's a meaningful choice if you're dealing with, say, fire and acid damage at the same time from a particular trap. You could have another party member shut off the acid trap, then equip a gold dragon gem and tank through the fire damage to get the party past. It also means that having a dragon gem makes you better at fighting the corresponding type of dragon, which might be a cute bonus depending on your worldbuilding. Movement types could also work here, but I'd advise you to be very careful with them due to my comments above.
Limit switching gems more (1/rest? 1/day?). That'd let you put powerful out-of-combat abilities like movement types on the gems without worrying about them stacking. I'm not a fan of this option, as it seems to contradict your design goals and threatens to lose the sword's identity, but I thought I'd bring it up.
There could also be some narrative benefits/effects from the gems that don't translate into gameplay bonuses. Perhaps each gem grants a particular language, or gives cosmetic changes to the wielder, or makes certain creatures treat the wielder differently. Perhaps there are doors in appropriate places that only open to the holder of such-and-such dragon gem. (You'd presumably stack this on top of the sword from post #2.)

I'm personally leaning towards #1 or #4. The narrative ramifications of the gems should distinguish them from each other, and if there are no appropriate narrative ramifications, then the gems don't need to be distinguished and thus don't need any special abilities of their own.

FlameUser64
2018-08-15, 03:22 PM
Grabbed my monster manual to check ó none of those abilities you mentioned exist in D&D. Some of them have analogues ó copper dragons do have a climb speed ó but others, like Luck, just straight-up don't exist. The reason I bring this up is because, as a D&D player, I'd never even heard of gold dragons having a Luck ability; I could see it being confusing to other non-Pathfinder players if that ability suddenly appeared. (If OP uses Pathfinder flavour at their table, of course, that's a non-issue. :P)

I like the general idea of providing out of combat bonuses for two reasons: one, because it's more interesting than in-combat abilities; and two, because the in-combat bonuses are either lackluster (post 1's Black and Gold), or they're ridiculously good (post 1's Green, Brass, and Copper). Getting a bonus action extra attack would be great on a normal weapon; with a +3 weapon that deals 3d6 extra damage on a hit, that damage output is going to be very, very high. If the gems are going to provide any interesting advantages, they'd best do so out of combat, I think. That's why I like the sword in post #2 a lot more than the one in post #1. The sword in post #1 is a strong sword that does stuff; the sword in post #2 is "the diviner's sword" that also happens to be great in combat. It's more fun, more narratively interesting, and far more memorable.

That said, I also see a problem with providing out of combat abilities to the gems in this specific case. If one of the gems provides a swim speed, and another provides a climb speed, and another provides a cloud-walking ability, well, when is a PC any two of those abilities at the same time? Not often enough to matter. It only takes them six-ish seconds to activate the appropriate ability, which is a trivial amount of time in any situation not tracked by initiative. The out-of-combat abilities, in this case, would have to be balanced as if the PC had all of them at once, since switching among abilities outside of combat is trivial.

For that reason, I recommend one of the following options:

Axe the gem abilities all together and stick with the sword in post #2. The base weapon is both strong and interesting thanks to its divination abilities, so don't worry about shortchanging your player.
Make the gem abilities either minor, or something where choosing among them would matter even out of combat (preferably both). One easy thing there could be granting resistance to the damage type corresponding to the active dragon's breath weapon. Even out of combat, that's a meaningful choice if you're dealing with, say, fire and acid damage at the same time from a particular trap. You could have another party member shut off the acid trap, then equip a gold dragon gem and tank through the fire damage to get the party past. It also means that having a dragon gem makes you better at fighting the corresponding type of dragon, which might be a cute bonus depending on your worldbuilding. Movement types could also work here, but I'd advise you to be very careful with them due to my comments above.
Limit switching gems more (1/rest? 1/day?). That'd let you put powerful out-of-combat abilities like movement types on the gems without worrying about them stacking. I'm not a fan of this option, as it seems to contradict your design goals and threatens to lose the sword's identity, but I thought I'd bring it up.
There could also be some narrative benefits/effects from the gems that don't translate into gameplay bonuses. Perhaps each gem grants a particular language, or gives cosmetic changes to the wielder, or makes certain creatures treat the wielder differently. Perhaps there are doors in appropriate places that only open to the holder of such-and-such dragon gem. (You'd presumably stack this on top of the sword from post #2.)

I'm personally leaning towards #1 or #4. The narrative ramifications of the gems should distinguish them from each other, and if there are no appropriate narrative ramifications, then the gems don't need to be distinguished and thus don't need any special abilities of their own.
Yeah, I was using those as examples, because as I said I'm unfamiliar with what abilities 5e's equivalent dragons have, if any. Additionally, it would probably be best to make those or similar abilities more area-of-effect style if you were going to use them at all, so that he could grant the entire party the ability to walk on clouds or walls. That way, you're essentially using them as plot gates in a Legend of Zelda sort of style, where recently-obtained equipment gives you the abilities you need to access the next area.

Soylentmatt
2018-08-17, 09:00 AM
The really big thing I wanted to do with the dragon gems was put this element of needing to swap between them strategically in combat. making an require an ACTION to move from the gold dragon gem to the silver dragon gem means the difference really has to matter... it needs in-combat implications. that was the original logic behind all the in-combat abilites.... that you would swap between a shield effect into getting advantage on one strike, and so on... but putting in all those effects was essentially gamebreaking.

still. simply by making each gem grant a different extra damage type (even if that extra damage is only ever a d6) actually does the same job. it won't be EVERY round, but honestly, it shouldn't be. it should just come up that sometimes he'd rather have acid damage over ice.

Meanwhile, if the gems confer a bunch of out-of-combat abilities, there's no real penalty for switching between them. out of combat, an action is nothing. so you're just effectively granting the player all the abilities of every gem, all the time. you can only use one one at a time, I guess, but still. so I'm going to leave the gem-based abilites out, and rather just use a lot of creative role-play with the intelligent weapon to sort of infuse it with knowledge about the various dragon-types.

I WILL, however, allow the weapon to gain some out-of-combat abilities as it gets more total gems. it won't matter WHICH gem you use, just as long as it has a certain number.